In the wake of all the recent natural disasters – including wildfires, floods, lethal heat waves, and high winds – the likelihood that you or people you love have been put at risk for post traumatic stress disorder is fairly high. PTSD has been known to have detrimental effects on mental health that lingers for years. However, new research offers hope that speedy intervention after the trauma takes place can arrest the problem before it has a chance to take hold.
A press release from the Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia quoted lead author Barbara Rothbaum, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, as saying, "PTSD is a major public health concern. In so many people, what happens immediately after a traumatic event can make things worse or better. Right now, there are no accepted interventions delivered in the immediate aftermath of trauma."
Rothbaum and colleagues published their findings in the journal Biological Psychiatry. Their work showed that a modified form of prolonged exposure therapy initiated within hours of a trauma reduces posttraumatic stress reactions and depression. Exposure therapy is a type of behavioral therapy in which a survivor confronts anxiety about a traumatic event by reliving it.
The implications of this study are immense, Rothbaum contends. "If we know what to do, then we can train emergency workers to intervene with patients on a large scale. In addition to being implemented in the emergency room, it can help on the battlefield, in natural disasters, or after criminal assaults . . . More research is needed, but this prevention model could have significant public health implications. A long-standing hope of mental health research is to prevent the development of psychopathology in those at risk instead of being limited to symptom treatment after disease onset."